Soldiers speak for themselves online

Victoria Sanchez

We don’t hear what is actually happening on and off the battle fields in the numerous countries our soldiers are in. No matter how much we try to keep up with the current events by either watching the news or reading the newspapers, the truth is never fully revealed to us.
It bothers me when people say they know the whole story when they haven’t stepped one foot outside of our country or served in the military. I was shown a Web site where soldiers shared their stories. These are not censored stories, but stories that were sent in as letters to family members, stories that were written specifically for this site and articles written for the George Washington University student newspaper by a soldier.
The site location is http://www.optruth.org. Operation Truth is a non-profit, non-partisan veteran’s organization Web site. They want to amplify the soldiers’ voice that deserves to be heard. These are just some of the stories.
Spc. Robert Acosta, 20-year-old Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, lost his right hand and the use of his left leg when a grenade was thrown into his humvee near Baghdad. This is what he had to say: “Soldiers just back from the war, mad at the world just talking shit to everybody. But like here in California, nobody really knows what the soldiers are going through, what’s happening to them. They see on TV, oh yeah, two soldiers got wounded today and they think, yeah, he’ll be alright. But that soldier is scarred for life both physically and mentally, but like they don’t understand. They see one soldier wounded and they’ll forget about it like as soon as they change the channel, you know.”
Soldiers, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere need to be heard. Relying only on 25 second sound bites on the news is limiting our perspective. These soldiers are protecting our freedom and the freedom as others around the world.
Perry Jefferies, a soldier, wrote in his journal about the lack of supplies for his troops. “We are told that we have to be ‘weaned’ off of bottled water. Since we have only two of our four water trailers and the support unit can’t supply us with any fresh water, this will be interesting. The reporters are all gone, so – no witnesses.”
Even the most equipped hospitals in Iraq are described as being far worse than anything seen in the United States. Soldiers have to stand guard in front of a shower curtain. Beyond that shower curtain – an operating table.
The following is from a letter written by Operation Truth’s founder, Paul Rieckhoff, to his girlfriend while he was stationed in Baghdad, standing guard at a hospital. “The medical equipment is abominable. Blood everywhere. Basic sanitation is absent – totally.”
A translator for the U.S. military, Akram Ali Hussein, described what would happen to Iraqis who spoke out against Saddam Hussein. He had a first hand encounter with the consequences. He said, “During Saddam’s rule, and even now, political dissidents face torture, maiming and death.”
Sgt. Kris Owen explained that soldiers don’t put their lives on the line for war. They put their lives on the line “for the guy next to them, for their families, for the ideals of the country.”
Spc. Zach Petersen, a National Guardsman, spent ten months in Baghdad. “I don’t think the American people have gotten the full story on what happened over in Iraq and what is still going on today,” Owen wrote.
I understand these stories on this Web site are just a few among the many stories and experiences our brave military servicemembers have shared with the world. They want their side of the story to be told. Freedom isn’t free. I think we should listen.